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A 'no-ride' list to boost security on Amtrak trains?

May 10, 2011|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Sen. Charles Schumer, right, with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, speaking, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D.-N.J.), is behind the proposed "no ride" list for U.S. railways.
Sen. Charles Schumer, right, with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood,… (Richard Drew / Associated…)

A call for a "no-ride" list to tighten security on Amtrak passenger trains, floated this week by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York), has drawn cautious responses from Amtrak and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Schumer on Monday called on the U.S. government to expand its Secure Flight Program, which cross-checks air travelers against a security watch list, to keep anyone on the no-fly list off trains. Basically, a train passenger would have to present ID, and his or her name would be checked against a list of suspected terrorists, reported. If there were a match, that individual wouldn't be allowed to board the train.

Schumer's proposal came on the heels of intelligence gathered at Osama bin Laden's compound that indicated Al Qaeda might have been planning a terrorist attack on America's rail network.

In a statement Monday, John O'Connor, Amtrak's vice president and chief of police,  did not rule out a "no-ride" list,  but he also alluded to potential issues.

"Amtrak is committed to the safety and security of our passengers and remains a safe way to travel," O'Connor said. "All countermeasures add value in creating an overall security posture in protecting a rail system that operates in an open environment. The creation of a 'do not ride' list is no exception.

"It would, however, have to be developed in close coordination with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and implemented in a way that respects civil rights and allows for the rapid flow of persons and trains, necessary for effective mass transit."

The Department of Homeland Security did not issue a position on the idea of a no-ride list, saying instead that Secretary Janet Napolitano would respond to Schumer directly. But a spokesman did outline its efforts to safeguard rail travel.

Spokesman Adam Fetcher said that, since 2006, the department had awarded $1.6 billion in grants to the transit and passenger rail industry to boost security.

Fetcher also said the department had funding in its 2012 budget to add a dozen more "multi-modal Visual Intermodal Prevention & Response teams" or VIPRs (pronounced "vipers"), bringing the total number of teams to 37. These teams are described as air marshals, K-9 units or security inspectors who unpredictably swarm ferries, trains and airports as a deterrent to terrorists.

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